Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is the infamous credit card sized computer that has revitalised the computer based experiementation first seen with the BBC Micro in the 1980s.   It runs a special flavour of Linux called Raspbian, which encourages students to explore the inner workings of a modern operating system.  The Pi comes with GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins that allow it to be connected to external devices ranging from LEDs and motors to temperature and movement sensors.   There many things that you can do with a Raspberry Pi including:

Getting Started

If you are interested in experiementing with a Raspberry Pi you will need to buy a few items.   There are a number of companies that sell the Raspberry Pi and its accessories such as Amazon, CPC-Farnells, Pi Hut and Element14.  Prices and options vary – its worth shopping around.

Here is a basic shopping list:

  • A Raspberry Pi Computer (~£25 to £30).  There are a few models around but the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B 1GB is the latest model and strongly recommended (Feb 2016)
  • A Case (~ £5 to £7). There are many cases around but the official case is pretty good if you are thinking about a Sense Hat or the OneNineDesign is also very good for camera applications.
  • A Power Supply (~ £5 to £7).  It is easy to buy a cheap power supply which does not deliver enough power.   The official supply seems to work pretty well in most basic situations.
  • A Micro SD Memory Card (~£5 to £20).   Ok, this is a pretty important item and you need to make a decision about what to buy.  It needs to be a Class 10 minimum card as anything less will be too slow – so look for the number 10 inside a C on the card.  You also need a minimum of a 8GB but don’t go too big as it will take too long to format – 32GB is big enough. When it comes to buying you can either buy a blank SD card and format it yourself or buy one ready installed.   If you are going to write your own image you will need a card reader – some laptops/computers have them otherwise you will need an external SD Card reader.
  • Network Connection.  If the Raspberry Pi is close enough that it can be plugged into your home network then just a network cable will suffice otherwise you are going to need a little USB Wifi Network adapter (~£6).

 You will also need the following:

  • A HDMI compatible monitor and HDMI to HDMI lead.
  • A USB Keyboard.
  • A USB Mouse.

Optional Extras

There are many things you can do with a Raspberry Pi on its own but a few optional extras will make it much more exciting:

  • The Sense Hat as used on the Astro PI competition (~£30).  This niffy bit of kit comes with: 8×8 LED matrix display; Accelerometer; Gyroscope; Magnetometer; Air Pressure sensor; Temperature sensor; Humidity Sensor; and a Small Joystick.
  • A Camera (~£10)
  • Experimenters Kits (~£15 to £20).

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